The Churls

The Churls were a Canadian psych-rock band from Toronto that released the 1968–69 A&M albums The Churls and Send Me No Flowers.

Members: Bob O’Neill (vocals), John Barr (bass), Brad Fowles (drums), Nick McCombie (guitar), Sam Hurrie (guitar), Harry Southworth Ames (guitar)


Background

The Churls formed in 1967 when singer Bob O’Neill and rhythm guitarist Nick McCombie teamed with three fellow Toronto musicians: bassist John Barr, drummer Brad Fowles, and lead guitarist Harry Southworth Ames. Their band name is an archaic term for peasant or miser.

They rose fast on the local scene with an eight-week summer residency at the Penny Farthing, a popular Yorkville coffee house.> With further gigs at nearby venues (The Strawberry Patch, The Rock Pile, Charlie Brown’s), they roused audiences with their strident blend of Cream and Hendrix sounds. That fall, the Everly Brothers spotted The Churls on a local visit and linked them with Glotzer and Katz Management, the agency that represented Blood Sweat and Tears. Their manager, Bill Riley, swapped McCombie for guitarist Sam Hurrie, then eighteen.

Ushered stateside, The Churls spent the first quarter of 1968 in New York City, where they secured residencies at Cafe a Go-Go and The Scene. Purportedly, they played to rock luminaries (Buddy Miles, Van Morrison) and held an impromptu jam session with Hendrix. They headed West to Hollywood for shows at the Whiskey a Go-Go and the Electric Circus, where executives from A&M signed the band. The Churls stayed in town and cut their first album.


The Churls

The Churls released their self-titled debut album in the fall of 1968 on A&M. It features the band with supplemental parts (uncredited) by the Tijuana Brass and keyboardist Newton Garwood of fellow Toronto rockers Leigh Ashford.

The Churls contains six songs co-written by singer Bob O’Neill and guitarist Harry Southworth Ames, including “Time Piece,” “Fish on a Line,” and “Princess Mary Margaret.”

They group-wrote another two (“Eventual Love,” “Where Will You Be Tomorrow”) with new guitarist Sam Hurrie, who wrote “The Weeks Go By” and collaborated with Ames on “Think I Can’t Live Without You.” O’Neill co-wrote “Crystal Palace” with bassist John Barr.

A1. “Eventual Love” (2:45)
A2. “Crystal Palace” (3:24)
A3. “Think I Can’t Live Without You” (3:16)
A4. “Princess Mary Margaret” (3:28)
A5. “City Lights” (2:58)
A6. “Fish On a Line” (6:05)
B1. “The Weeks Go By” (3:07)
B2. “Where Will You Be Tomorrow” (2:30)
B3. “Time Piece” (4:46)
B4. “Reservations” (2:08)
B5. “Gypsy Lee” (5:31)

Sessions took place in mid-1968 at A&M Studios in Los Angeles, where staffer Paul A. Sloman co-produced the album with budding soundman Andy Muson, who later worked with Free Design and Jobriath. The album features orchestral arrangements by Artie Schroeck, an orchestrator for The Four Seasons and The Lovin’ Spoonful.

The Churls lists five engineers, including prolific soundmen Bill Halverson (Cream, Pacific Gas & Electric, Vanilla Fudge, Zephyr) and Gene Radice (Blades of Grass, Eric Burdon & The Animals, Kenny Rankin, The Velvet Underground). Dick Bogert worked on concurrent RCA titles by The Loading Zone and fellow Canadian psychsters The Family Tree (Miss Butters).

The Churls features up-shot cover photography by Barry Feinstein, who pictured the band on a concrete ledge dressed as Renaissance jesters (front and back). Feinstein’s photography also appears on 1968 A&M titles by Claudine Longet and label co-founder Herb Alpert. Label exec Bob Garcia wrote the liner notes, who includes the Webster definition of their name and calls them a “five-man musical sponge.”

A&M lifted “City Lights” as a single in Canada (b/w “Where Will You Be Tomorrow”). The Churls embarked on a brief North American tour and headed back to LA for a followup. Sam Hurrie left and recent auxiliary organist Newton Garwood joined the band.


Send Me No Flowers

The Churls released their second album, Send Me No Flowers, in the summer of 1969 on A&M.

The album features three Ames–O’Neill songs (“Send Me No Flowers,” “Long, Long Time,” “Tonight”) and another (“Too Many Rivers”) group-written with Newton Garwood, who collaborated with O’Neill on “See My Way.”

Drummer Brad Fowles contributed to the Garwood–O’Neill numbers “Trying To Get You Off My Mind” and “She Needs a Man.” Side A contains the album’s canonical single, “I Can See Your Picture,” a full-band composition.

Co-producer Andy Muson plays piano, vibraphone, and percussion on the album.

A1. “Send Me No Flowers” (3:04)
A2. “I Can See Your Picture” (3:00)
A3. “See My Way” (5:06)
A4. “Long, Long Time” (3:55)
B1. “Tonight” (4:11)
B2. “Trying To Get You Off My Mind” (4:48)
B3. “She Needs a Man” (2:41)
B4. “Too Many Rivers” (5:33)

Sessions took place at A&M, LA, with Sloman and Muson, who arranged “Long, Long Time.” Send Me No Flowers lists three engineers, including Henry Lewy (Joe Cocker, Joni Mitchell, Procol Harum) and returning soundman Dick Bogert, who also worked on 1969 titles by Harry Nilsson and Bossa Rio.

A&M lifted “I Can See Your Picture” as a North American promo single (b/w “Long, Long Time”). In Japan, A&M issued “She Needs a Man” in a picture sleeve (b/w “Send Me No Flowers”).


Aftermath

The Churls parted with A&M and returned to Toronto, where they gigged through thend end of 1969 and then parted ways. In 2012, archivists Pacemaker Entertainment Limited fit the band’s two albums onto a single CD.


Discography:

  • The Churls (1968)
  • Send Me No Flowers (1969)

Sources:

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